Guest post by Cindy Trillo
How to get a good night’s sleep is a question that Brits continue to ask. According to the Great British Bedtime report, people in the United Kingdom are only clocking 5-6 hours of sleep each night, well below the recommended number of hours needed.
With the country dealing with health effects and lowered work productivity thanks to the loss of sleep, it’s natural to assume many of us are seeking ways to get quality sleep. The quality of your sleep and its influencing factors have been repeatedly studied, with experts listing stress, mental health, and surrounding environment as factors people can change to improve their sleep.
However, did you know that diet could be the thing interrupting the number of hours you get? Eating a diet filled with sleep supporting foods, such as selected smoothies, may help you sleep better.
Take a look at a few dietary habits you can change today.
Three ways your diet could be interfering with your sleep
1. Change your eating times
Before you consider your dietary content, you must look at the times you’re eating.
According to NHS guidelines and a 2017 study by Harvard Medical School in conjunction with the University of Murica, people eating more calories later in the day are likely to get less sleep. Therefore, it is recommended that larger meals be eaten earlier on.
In fact, you should aim to eat your largest meal 2-3 hours before heading to bed. Any food consumed after this time should be light, keeping it between 100-200 calories.
2. Opt for lean proteins
Foods rich in lean protein such as cottage cheese, yogurt, and chicken include great amounts of tryptophan. This is an amino acid that increases your serotonin levels, a brain chemical strongly associated with your sleep.
Foods rich in melatonin, including nuts, grapes and pomegranates, are also good for regulating your sleep cycle. A handful of these as a light snack before bed can help your body align with it being bedtime.
When choosing your menu or making meal plans for the week, be sure to include lean proteins when accounting for 10-35 per cent of your daily calorie intake.
3. Avoid caffeine before bedtime
Another no-no leading up to bedtime is the inclusion of caffeine.
The National Sleep Foundation reported that caffeine could keep people from falling asleep for up to 12 hours. The stimulant acts as an inhibitor to your Adenosine receptors, which are responsible for promoting sleepiness.
According to a past report by the Sleep Disorders & Research Center, consuming caffeine at 0, 3 and 6 hours before bedtime all interfere with the quality of sleep you get by at least an hour. As stated by bedtester.com, other factors such as the noise level or the support of your mattress play a significant role in your sleep.
However, the alertness that is produced with caffeine can also keep you awake, even with the right support. To overcome this, implement measures such as limiting your intake of coffee and caffeine-rich foods, and set yourself a caffeine cut off time of no later than 2 pm (dependent on your bedtime).
Getting great sleep does not rely entirely on your diet, however. There are other measures you can take in addition to changing up what you eat, one of which is creating a calming, sleep-friendly environment.
Start with choosing a light or neutral, calming colour scheme for your bedroom. In addition, opt for a space free of clutter. If there are electronics in the bedroom, set a cut off time to stop their use.
Another element you can control is the temperature. The Sleep Foundation recommends a temperature of 16-18 degrees Celsius. The bedroom should be seen as a welcoming place to relax.
In the end, what you eat is just as important to your sleep patterns as when you eat it. Incorporating sleep boosting foods and timing them correctly can make the difference between dragging yourself out of bed in the morning, and waking up feeling refreshed and energised.